Advice to help you stay well
Although winter weather and snow can be fun for some, these weather conditions are also linked to an increase in illness and injuries.
Cold weather increases the risk of heart attacks, strokes, breathing problems, flu, and other diseases. People can slip and fall in the snow or ice, sometimes suffering serious injuries. Some groups such as older people, very young children, and people with serious medical conditions, are particularly vulnerable to the effects of cold weather.
Every winter thousands of people across the UK become seriously ill or die as a consequence of the cold temperatures and infections like the flu
This page provides you with a range of information to help you stay well this winter and who to contact to get the best advice and support you need.
Are you eligible for a free flu vaccination?
Flu is a highly infectious disease and is different to the common cold. Symptoms include fever, chills, headaches, aching muscles and joint pain and fatigue. It can lead to serious complications if you have an underlying health condition such as COPD, bronchitis, emphysema, diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, liver disease or a chronic neurological disease like multiple sclerosis or cerebral palsy.
Flu on top of health conditions like these increases your chance of serious health complications and a hospital visit.
The free flu vaccination is offered to those who are at increased risk from the effects of flu. These include:
- people aged 65 and over
- pregnant women
- people with underlying health conditions
- children (aged 2-9)
If you are eligible for the flu vaccine, get it now before the end of November 2018 so to protect yourself this winter– it’s free because you need it. Contact your GP, pharmacist or midwife to get it.
For more information about the flu vaccination visit www.nhs.uk/fluvaccine
Feeling under the weather?
Starting to feel unwell? It’s important to nip illness in the bud, especially if you are older or have an underlying health condition. Why not first have a chat with your local pharmacist. You don’t need an appointment and many have private consultation areas, so they're a good first port of call. Your pharmacist will say if you need further medical attention.
NHS 111 – get the right medical attention quickly
If you’re not sure which NHS service you need, call NHS 111 for free. A professionally trained advisor will ask you questions to assess your symptoms and then give you the advice you need, or direct you straightaway to the right service, including an ambulance.
Your prescription for a healthier winter...
Top tips to stay safe and well include:-
- Get your flu jab! Cold weather can be very harmful, especially for people aged 65 or older: it weakens the immune system, increases blood pressure, thickens the blood and lowers body temperature, increasing risks of high blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes, and chest infections.
- Keep warm! It is important to keep warm in winter – both inside and outdoors as it can help to prevent colds, flu and more serious health problems, such as heart attacks, strokes pneumonia and depression. Heat your home to at least 18°C (65°F), if you can, you might prefer your living room to be slightly warmer. Try and keep active when you’re indoors, get up and move about and try not to sit still for longer than an hour at a time. Also, try and wear several layers of light clothes, as they trap warm air better.
- Feeling unwell - If you start to feel unwell, even if it is just a cough or cold, don’t wait until it gets more serious, get help from your pharmacist. Pharmacists can also advise on the best medicines to have in medicines cabinet to help get you and your family through the winter. The sooner you get advice the better – pharmacists are here to help you stay well this winter.
- Don’t forget your prescription! If you’ve been prescribed medication, don’t forget to pick up your prescription before the Christmas holidays start. Many GPs and pharmacies will close over the holidays.
- Health advice – If you do need help over the holiday period when your GP surgery or pharmacy is closed, call NHS 111 or visit www.nhs.uk who can direct you to a local service that is open.
- Look out for other people – We can all do with a little bit of extra help and support at different times. If someone you know is feeling unwell or may need some support during the cold weather ask to see if they need any practical help.
- Keep your medical cupboard well stocked. Having pain killers, cold and flu remedies, hydration sachets and tummy settlers will cover most winter illnesses and mean you don’t have to go out in the cold when you’re feeling your worst.
- Prescribed antibiotics? Always finish the course, even if you feel better. Never share them and respect your doctor’s decision if he/she doesn’t prescribe them - they are doing so for a clinical reason.
- Make a note of any important services/contacts.
Winter Programmes and Resources
The Government’s ‘Keep Warm Keep Well’ website provides advice on staying warm over the winter and checking on neighbours and relatives who may be vulnerable during cold weather, in order to reduce illness and deaths. Materials will continue to be available online to help local organisations communicate with the public.
NHS Winter Health, the main NHS website provides reliable advice and guidance throughout the year on how to keep fit and well. It includes information on topics such as: keeping warm; the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning; the importance of eating well; and the symptoms of flu. The site also offers symptom checkers and details of all local health services
NHS England will post information on their website each week for service professionals and users about the current volume of activity in response to the winter pressures, including regular data on A&E and ambulance activity.
Met Office’s ‘Weather Ready’ is an annual web-based campaign hosted by the Met Office and is a portal for government departments and their partners. The pages offer advice and links to a range of organisations to help individuals, families and communities prepare for winter.
Fuel Poverty Toolkit - Citizens Advice and Cornwall Council have produced two fuel poverty toolkits, one for health professionals and another for local authorities providing information and guidance on how to tackle fuel poverty.
Stop norovirus spreading this winter - this downloadable poster for health professionals contains information about norovirus, how it’s transmitted and advice on how to prevent spreading the disease.
Guidance, data and analysis on norovirus including information about symptoms, management and how to prevent spread is available here.